Friday, July 3, 2015

Curved Gully Ridge Mountaineering On Carrauntoohil

Mary and Denis
Always a nice view...looking down from below the Heavenly Gates
Better weather when we were back down.
Last Saturday I went back with Denis O'Brien to meet his friend Mary to have a go at Curved Gully Ridge on Carrauntoohil. It is in my opinion the finest route to the summit of the mountain and offers a varied and interesting climb of up to HS. I had taken Denis up the route recently but it would be Marys first time so I was looking forward to introducing her to this fine mountaineering route. Alas as we gathered in Cronins Yard before our outing it was pretty obvious that the good weather window we had hoped for was no where to be seen and rain and a stiff breeze meant that it was an easy decision to save the ridge for another day. After a short discussion we decided to reconvene on Sunday morning and give it another try. As we were already at the base of the mountain we decided to make a quick dash to the summit of Carrauntoohil. And a dash it was. I haven't been as quick from the top of the Devils Ladder to the summit in a long time. I pushed as hard as I was able but try as I might Denis remained wedged right behind me. The weather was pretty miserable on top with a strong wind and mist so we turned around straight away and made our way down via the Heavenly Gates. There was a lot of people on the mountain today and a large chunk of them was made up of people on a charity event from the UK. Despite the weather they were in great spirits and when we got back to Cronins Yard we received a rousing welcome to a cacophony of cow bells and cheers. We agreed to give it another try the following morning when better weather was promised.

Sunday morning was much more promising and Frank was to join us as well. We were a little late starting out as alarm clock malfunctions etc meant that it was almost 11am and we leaving Cronins Yard. Still the sun was shining and nobody was in a mad rush to be anywhere else so we were set fair for the day. There was some cloud on the summit but we were confident that we would get the climb done today. We made our way up the long slog to the base of the route and it was about 13.30 when we were ready to go. I had been wondering exactly how we would go about the climb as I had never led more than one person on a rope before but I decided to use the 50 meter rope and I tied into the center of it and Denis tied into one strand and Mary tied into the other one about 15ft before Frank. It was a bit awkward to begin with but we soon got thing going and things went smoothly on the climb. The one worrying thing was the weather. Summer had momentarily forgot about Carrauntoohil and it was decidedly on the chilly side and things weren't helped by the at times very strong wind that threatened to blow me off my balance on the first pitch.

Scrambling up the lower section of Curved Gully

Looking up the lower section of the route,,bottom left to top center

Yours truly showing his best side

Well deserved summit photo...summery looking or what
Still once I was on the route my concentration was fully engaged and the time just flew by. Its amazing just how short a doubled 50 meter rope is on a mountain route but this route offers plenty of belay places (even though not all of them are very comfortable for four people) and with one or two exceptions the short rope wasn't a problem. I led every pitch and Denis belayed each time with Frank being the anchor man behind Mary. As we got higher the wind increased in strength if anything and its fair to say that the last couple of belays were less than comfortable but it was proper mountaineering and had the feel of a high mountain route. We arrived at the summit a full three hours after we set off, tired but safe and exhilarated after completing what is for me the finest route on the mountain. Back down via the heavenly gates and once lower down we were again amazed at the contrast in the temperatures and weather. From a stern reminder of winter/spring we were now in a balmy summer evening. I think it felt all the better for having had our technical skills and endurance tested. Not a route to be taken too lightly.